Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Man Utd: Transfer window; Erik ten Hag; Jadon Sancho – what happens next?
TOPNews

Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Man Utd: Transfer window; Erik ten Hag; Jadon Sancho – what happens next?

Dec 25, 2023
Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag
Will Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag’s position come under new scrutiny from Sir Jim Ratcliffe?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group have finally agreed a deal to buy 25% of Manchester United.

It is the first time since the Glazers assumed control of United in 2005 that any group outside the family has held such a significant stake.

And while the club’s US-based owners retain a majority shareholding and most of the voting power, Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group will take control of football operations and he will be able to make the decisions he feels are best to get United back challenging for major titles.

BBC Sport has been told it may be about 6-8 weeks before the shareholding is ratified and Ratcliffe can start to make his presence felt.

Here we look at the areas he will be thinking about.

How much to spend in the January transfer window?

It will be February before the deal is complete, meaning next month’s transfer window will be closed by the time Ratcliffe is officially involved.

In the 18 years of Glazer control, United have spent 2.21bn euros in transfer fees – £1.94bn at the current conversion rate. That is the third most in Europe over that period behind Chelsea (£2.7bn) and Manchester City (£2.33bn).

United could spend significantly more than they already have if the Glazers were willing to spend their own money on top of revenue generated by the business.

It is often said that January is a difficult window to make quality signings, and it would seem certain Ten Hag will be asked to stick within budget and be creative with any changes.

He acquired goalkeeper Jack Butland, midfielder Marcel Sabitzer and striker Wout Weghorst on loan deals in January, and defender Sergio Reguilon and midfielder Sofyan Amrabat in the same manner on deadline day in September.

United have already said they don’t expect to be involved in extensive business next month, a situation only heightened by the complications over Jadon Sancho’s future where selling the 23-year-old would incur a significant loss, and a loan is almost certain to involve subsidising his wages.

graphic showing money spent by clubs

Erik ten Hag’s future

There has been no indication during United’s struggles on the pitch so far this season that manager Erik ten Hag’s position is under threat.

However, like any manager, the Dutchman stands or falls by results on the pitch, and United have more tricky games before their week off in January after what is now their worst start to a season since 1930 in terms of defeats, after Saturday’s loss at West Ham.

Despite taking the Premier League manager of the month award for November, United have only won one of their past seven games. In total, they have lost 13 out of 26 games in all competitions this season.

Their Champions League and League Cup campaigns are already over.

In the Premier League, United are eighth, 12 points off leaders Arsenal and eight points away from a top-four spot.

United face top-four Aston Villa and Tottenham at home in their next three games, by which time, it should be clear whether they have any chance of finishing in the top four, although fifth may be enough for a Champions League spot.

And, more importantly, it will be apparent whether the Dutchman has managed to mould together a convincing team after spending almost £400m in the three transfer windows he has been in place for.

The Jadon Sancho issue

Manchester United's Jadon Sancho
Can Jadon Sancho be reintegrated with the first team, or will he need to be loaned out or sold?

One of the most pressing issues in the Ineos in-tray is the future of Jadon Sancho.

In theory, if England winger Sancho were to offer a public apology for his now-deleted inflammatory “scapegoat” social media post in response to Ten Hag’s explanation for why he was omitted from United’s squad for the defeat by Arsenal on 3 September, he could return to the fold.

In reality, so much time has elapsed with neither party backing down that some kind of split – either permanent or temporary – in January feels inevitable. And that will be costly.

Ratcliffe and right-hand man Sir Dave Brailsford might find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to sanction either United subsidising a portion of Sancho’s salary, or a mammoth hit on the £73m the club paid Borussia Dortmund for him in 2021, in order to deal with a problem Ten Hag has, so far, received 100% backing on.

graphic showing trophies won season by season by Manchester United

The Old Trafford stadium

Old Trafford
Old Trafford has the biggest capacity of any club ground in England

As part of the deal, Ratcliffe will provide $300m (£236m) for future investment into the club’s Old Trafford stadium and infrastructure.

However, it is accepted this figure – as big as it is – will not come close to funding the renovations required to bring it up to the standard demanded of a club of United’s stature.

What will be closely assessed is how further improvements are paid for.

United fans have long argued the debt and associated costs incurred by the Glazer takeover – now estimated at more than £1bn – should have been spent on improving the team.

However, there are virtually no examples of infrastructure projects of the size envisaged being completed without significant external funding – Tottenham’s new £1bn stadium being a recent example. The cost of building works tends to be spread over an extended period of time, with the potential for repayment factored into the plans, through the creation of executive areas in many cases.

Nevertheless, for a club already heavily in debt, the thought of taking on more will be difficult to swallow for some supporters.

The United fanbase

United’s major fans’ groups were unified in their stance that their preferred outcome of the ‘review of strategic alternatives’ when it was launched more than 12 months ago was for the Glazers to leave completely.

That will not be happening – at least not soon. Nor will Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim be coming in to lavish billions on United as he promised if he was allowed to buy the club.

Clearly, Sheikh Jassim’s arrival would have created sportswashing concerns, just as Ineos have had to answer greenwashing claims.

Now fans will want to know how the relationship between the Glazers and Ratcliffe will work.

Ratcliffe’s past business history suggests he will not be passive. The Glazers’ work at United suggests they will not be rushed into anything.

As one source who understands the mechanics of United told BBC Sport: “Jim Ratcliffe will underestimate the Glazers at his peril, but the Glazers will also underestimate Jim at their peril.”

Whenever Ratcliffe speaks to the media, he will have to navigate the tricky balance of accepting United have badly underperformed on the pitch for over a decade, while not pinning all the blame on the people who hold a majority of the shares.

United’s fans will need to at least feel as though Ratcliffe is working towards what was always his preferred outcome; that he gets control at Old Trafford.

If they don’t, the protests are likely to continue.

graphic showing record signing season by seasonAcross the BBC bannerAcross the BBC footer

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *